Special education disparities are social determinants of health: A role for medical–legal partnerships

Karen Bonuck, Leah Aileen Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Problem: Education is a key social determinant of health. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) purportedly affords children the right to a free and appropriate education. Yet, racial, ethnic, and economic disparities exist regarding appropriate identification and classification of children with needs for special education, and access to services. Purpose: This article first highlights gaps and disparities in special educational services, and their structural linkage to poverty. The second section describe the first years of a medical–legal collaboration between a University Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and Fordham University, focused on special education. Key Points: The collaboration’s interdisciplinary training activities increased practical knowledge for law students and UCEDD clinicians. A legal clinic for UCEDD families enabled Fordham students to apply their skills. Conclusions: Because social determinants of health often lie beyond the medical domain, interdisciplinary collaborations are needed to remediate them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-257
Number of pages7
JournalProgress in Community Health Partnerships: Research, Education, and Action
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020


  • Child
  • Child development
  • Disabled persons
  • Education
  • Exceptional
  • Government programs
  • Parents
  • Sociology and social phenomena

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Education
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Special education disparities are social determinants of health: A role for medical–legal partnerships'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this